PICKERING Town manager Paul Marshall admits his side are 'massive underdogs' to win Monday's North Riding FA Senior Cup final against Whitby Town, writes Ian Appleyard.

The Pikes finished second in the Northern Counties East League premier division while Whitby finished sixth in the Northern Premier League and narrowly missed out on play-off qualification.

Around 1,200 supporters are expected to attend the game which is being held at Middlesbrough's 34,700 capacity Riverside Stadium and broadcast live on the internet (7.30pm).

Marshall said: "Everyone connected with the club is really excited because, for many, it is their first opportunity to be involved in a game at a Premier League venue.

"But we know we are going there as massive underdogs," he added. "Whitby are a strong and experienced side with a good manager in Chris Hardy who has done remarkably well to get his club so close to this season's play-offs."

The final will have added significance for Whitby Town goalkeeper Shane Bland who was released by host club Middlesbrough four years ago.

Bland, now 22, never played for Boro's first team but is now regarded as the 'best goalkeeper outside the Football League' by manager Chris Hardy.

"Words can't describe how gutted I was when Boro released me," said Bland. "It was a hard time for me but the move to Whitby Town was the start of a new era."

Bland, who also had trials with Motherwell, Leeds United, and Blackburn Rovers as a teenager, signed a new two year deal with the Seasiders only last week.

"I know we had a disappointing end to last season, in terms of how we finished, ending up two points outside of the play-offs, but I have decided to give it another crack next season," he said.

"I’m absolutely delighted to remain a part of it. All the foundations are in place to move up and hopefully we’ll go one better."

Manager Hardy, meanwhile, said: "To secure his services for this season and beyond is a massive boost for the football club. I think it sends out a real statement of intent in terms of what we’re trying to do at the Turnbull Ground."